And so it begins…

Hi there.

I have been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now. Many of my friends and colleagues have them, and for years I have been writing blog-like posts to the various e-mail lists I subscribe to and the odd message board here or there. Truth be told, I actually prefer e-mail, but I find it’s often a pain to search through listserv archives, so I’ve been pondering my alternatives. Last summer, one of my priests (I’m not Orthodox myself — not yet, anyway — but my wife is, and we attend an Orthodox church) told me all about the wondrous ease and flexibility of Blogger. But, as is my wont, I procrastinated, and procrastinated, and procrastinated …

Well, events beyond my control have finally conspired to get me off my butt and do something. A message board that I used to frequent is undergoing something of a Disney-style internal battle, and I find myself in the role of, say, Pixar — frozen out of the board by a Michael Eisner-like administrator who has seized power while other administrators who were there long before him have resigned in protest over his methods (call them the Roy Disney figures). I would still like a place to post my first impressions of films etc. before I have to write my proper reviews, so I am finally taking the plunge and starting this blog.

I think one of the reasons I have been reluctant to jump into the blogosphere in the past is that I did not know if anybody would follow me here. I like conversation, and message boards provide ready access to that — you know you’re stepping into a crowded pub, where the conversation has been going on long before you and will continue long after you. Listservs can also provide a measure of that, though the long gaps between e-mails can be ominously silent. But starting one’s own blog seems a bit more … isolated, even egotistical. Instead of going to where the people are, you assume they will come to you, instead. And if they don’t, you feel you end up just talking to yourself.

However, in the last week alone, I wrote several reviews and articles on at least ten different films — some new, some old — and I found that the posts I made about those films when I saw them one, two, three, or more years ago were very helpful. So, even if nobody else reads the stuff that I happen to write here in my spare time, I have good reason to believe that some of it will find an audience of some sort, in some form, down the road.

I’ll be posting about non-film-related stuff, too, of course — apart from my interest in religion, politics, history, and other subjects, I also got married just last month, so I’m sure there’s all sorts of new experiences I’ll want to talk about here — but film will always be just around the corner. As I said when I first joined another forum nearly six years ago:

Well, I was telling someone earlier today that my three favorite subjects are religion, history and film, and anything that combines the three is immediately interesting to me. . . . The three subjects have never been all that separate, for me. Certainly my faith is very much a film-informed, or film-tinted, one. I grew up looking for Christology in Star Wars, Tron, E.T. and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Nowadays, when I think of, say, grace, I’m as liable to think of The Game and Babette’s Feast and Jerry Maguire as I am to think of scripture. When I think of original sin, a passage or two from The Last Days of Disco are the first things that come to my mind. When I consider the differences between the humble, other-oriented life and the proud, self-oriented life, I turn to The Dreamlife of Angels. And when I ponder the challenges posed by naturalistic atheism, and the question of whether humans can have identity without a God-breathed soul, I think not of books of science and philosophy but of Errol Morris’s mesmerizing, melancholic docu-poem Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.

I could come up with better examples than some of those now, no doubt. But the basic idea remains as true as ever.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14715376140228118442 Jeffrey Overstreet

    Welcome to the blogosphere! (Who named it that, and isn’t it strange that it contains the word LOGOS?)

    I’ve been hoping you’d make this leap, and I’m glad to see you have a place where you can give us a window on your thinking. Your writing has challenged and influenced me for several years, and I’m glad you now have a central hub for it. Your work deserves its own platform, where it can be seen and appreciated more broadly than it is in the often-exhausting discussion board threads.

    So again, congratulations and welcome. “I shall monitor your progress with great interest.” (Did I get that quote right?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Re: that quote.

    You know the Star Wars prequels better than I do, Jeff! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06403255764384760662 Betty

    I was going to post “Welcome to the blogosphere,” but I see someone beat me to it. :)

    Anyway, hey, I’ve definitely followed you here, even if I’ve been slow about it. (Yeah, well, I’m backed up on my e-mail. You know how that goes.)

    I’ll link to ya on my own blog. Assuming Blogger will let me, that is. It’s been a bit persnickety lately…

  • Trent

    Of course, if you wait a week before telling anyone that you’re doing this.

    I’m thinking about doing something similar, but building my own. But if you think just signing up for pre-built software is enough to keep you thinking “maybe tomorrow”, just try and build the whole thing from the ground up.

    But maybe next weekend….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Re: that message board I refer to in one paragraph of this post.

    I don’t want to draw more attention to this than I have to, so I’m not going to start another thread. But those who want an admittedly biased perspective on the situation (i.e. mine) can read this, while those who want the perspective of one of the administrators can read this.

  • Byrun

    Yet another Temple of Narcissism. Kidding. Sort of.
    You still need to publish books.
    Aw hell… congratulations Peter.
    Write a book, I mean it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    I’m workin’ on the proposal(s) as we speak, byrun.

    In other news, I just noticed that someone at the message board in question suggested that my paragraph about the board in this post was “based in, well, grandiose and overly self-important delusion”. (I’ll gladly cop to grandiose; as for self-importance, I think there’s a lot of that to go around at the moment, unfortunately.) And then, in a rather funny move, the moderator who “seized the reins” at that board (that phrase is not original to me, but to one of the “Roy Disney figures”) slapped him with a warning.

    The person in question tries to see a silver lining on that cloud by saying that, well, at least the Eisner figure has proved his “evenhandedness” now — but from where I sit, he’s just confirmed what others have called his “heavy-handedness”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    An update on that message board: It turns out I can read “Short-Term Parking” posts again, though I still cannot write any. I don’t want to drag this out any more than I have to, but since the administrator who booted me makes certain statements that seem, to me, to skew in a misleading direction, I just want to reply to those. (Yeesh, I hope I’m not turning into Harlan Ellison here.)

    He writes: “For those of you who think the truth can be derived via the trough of gossip and innuendo…”

    If he is saying he wants those of us on “hiatus” to post copies of his private messages to us, just so all the facts are on the table, then I would certainly be open to that. Though I’d rather not, for all our sakes.

    “…or by listening to one side only…”

    I did say, above, that my account of what happened is “admittedly biased”. So of course, I encourage anyone who cares — and I’m not saying anyone should care — to get more than one perspective. I wish he would encourage his readers to do the same.

    “My intention here is not to address those remarks, but rather to say that a lot more has gone on than most seem to know–even those involved. Perhaps I have erred by trying to keep such issues private.”

    Indeed. One of the main issues between this administrator and me is the way he asserts that he has lots of people backing his decisions up, yet he never produces a single iota of evidence to make his case. Hence, when he boots someone from the board simply on his say-so, there is a distinct lack of what we might call “due process”.

    So I would be all in favour of a little more public accountability. If he is going to draw strength from the many, many people who have allegedly called for people like me to be booted, then those people should have the courage to challenge me directly, or to at least allow the administrator to make public their requests so that he does not have to take the blame on their behalf.

    “Know that I have not acted solely on my own opinion and consulted several senior members of this board and the board staff before taking action. Actions taken were equitable and were supported by a majority of those who responded.” (Emphasis in the original.)

    In a private message, he said the majority was 2 to 1 (and that’s including him) out of an apparently larger group of people — and I believe this was after one of the administrators had already resigned in protest. In other words, there appear to have been quite a few abstentions, or maybe some people just didn’t check their private messages. Some majority.

    “It is my hope that the upcoming weeks will be used to seek reconciliation and the cooling of emotions and not to throw rocks over the walls.”

    That is my hope, too, but when you build a wall and push people outside it and then throw a post like this over it — well, now.

    I’m trying to put that message board behind me for now, honest, except when I have to go and look up one of my many posts there — but alas, PMs (private messages) keep dragging me back. E-mail is best.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05705499025277666931 Darryl A. Armstrong

    Golly, I get lost at work (80-90 hours a week the last month) and I come back to check in at my favorite web board only to find it in a completely different state than what I remember it to have been in.

    I’m very sad to read about all of this here, but I’m glad to see you’ve got a blog up and runing, Peter! I love reading your thoughts on film.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17937261824938050912 Fran

    Changing the subject slightly:

    YOU GOT MARRIED LAST MONTH!

    Well, congratulations to you both! Where was I? No doubt scrawling through posts on films I’ve already forgotten I’ve seen…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Thanks, Darryl! I don’t have an e-mail address for you, but feel free to e-mail me at the address linked under the “Contact” button up above, if you like.

    FWIW, I still have no idea if it is worth the bother to return to that message board, but one thing I am finding — through e-mailing various other members — is that quite a few people who I would consider “senior members of this board,” whether because they have been around since the novogate days or because they post lots of messages, were not even consulted by you-know-who before he unilaterally ejected me from the board.

    Without naming names, I can say that, in addition to myself and the two administrators who resigned their positions in protest over you-know-who’s tactics, I know of at least five other people (six, if I count you) who have been part of the message board for years, and who post rather frequently to the board, and who tell me they were never even approached by you-know-who.

    You-know-who claims to have a “majority” of the “senior members of this board” on his side — he has privately admitted, more than once, that he did not have a majority of the actual board staff on his side — yet how can he claim that his actions were “equitable” when he didn’t even bother to solicit the opinions of people who had every right to be consulted but might have disagreed with him?

    Not that I think ad hoc star chambers are the way to go to begin with, anyway, no matter how “equitable” things might be behind the scenes. Public accountability does count for something.

  • Rich Kennedy

    So THAT’S what slander looks like, heh heh. As always with this tech IT stuff’ I’m bringing up the rear in the kudoes department. Nice place you got here and I wish you well. Don’t give up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05705499025277666931 Darryl A. Armstrong

    Well, I wasn’t even aware of anything going on at the board except noticing that some of the regular posters weren’t posting as much until I found your blog here.

    I’ve worked for 71 straight days now (at 50-90 hours a week — I think I’m on the wrong end of the movie/entertainment biz) so the most I’ve had time to do is skim the websites and boards I frequent.

    Hopefully I’ll get some time off soon and get back down to a normal 40-45 hour week now that our conversion is finally stabalizing (my old video rental store was bought out by Movie Gallery) and I can catch up and get my own blog/website current.

    Oh yeah, in case I haven’t said anything (I can’t remember) — congatulations on the wedding!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    April 7 update. Two points need clarifying. And this will be my last word on the message board situation (unless, I suppose, there are further developments after this).

    First, the person who booted me off the board now claims that, before he booted me off the board, he did not consult the opinions of anyone except members of the board staff. Apparently “several senior members of this board and the board staff” is a reference to only one group of people, not two.

    Second, I have now contacted all the current and former moderators personally, and none of them — not one — agrees with the “actions” of the person who booted me off the board. Suffice to say the moderators each thought it was one of the other guys who supported the guy who booted me off, but it turns out not one of them did.

    Remember, the guy who booted me off the board claimed, at the time, and in a thread that was publicly available to all board subscribers: “Know that I have not acted solely on my own opinion and consulted several senior members of this board and the board staff before taking action. Actions taken were equitable and were supported by a majority of those who responded.” (Emphasis in the original.)

    Make of all that whatever you will.

    I have still not decided whether to return to the board, nor whether I can trust the person who booted me off not to abuse his power again; he still has never, to my knowledge, admitted any wrongdoing or any misleading of the board membership. But if anyone has any advice for me, contact me at the e-mail address linked at the top of the page.

    Of course, if there was ever to be any reconciliation between us, I would definitely consider deleting all the comments attached to this post that concern the recent unpleasantness at that board. But for now, that is only a hopeful wish.

    And that is my last word on the subject.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02492954693818444648 Kenneth R. Morefield

    FWIW–those who know Peter (or me), know we don’t generally agree on…well, much of anything. And I’m pretty good friends with at least one of the parties that Peter has had run-ins with.

    That said, my experience with the other party at the message board to which Peter is referring to has been remarkably similar to (although chronologically separate from)Peter’s.

    Good luck with your blog, Peter.


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